Andrew Dickson is one of Canada’s most skilled channellers of 1960's and 1970's rock in roll. In Tricky Woo he bundled hard rock and psychedelic blues into a surging musical cauldron. While the Woo was defunct, he explored Pink Floydian space rock in Soft Canyon. When the Woo returned, he went back to a purer hard rock sound. But the blues-loving hippy inside must be sated somehow, and with Tricky Woo once again on hiatus, the Mongrels have given Dickson a chance to bust out the tie-die.

Accompanied by opening act – fellow Montrealers glam punks Evil Boys, they stormed the stage of Irene’s.

The Evil Boys had already come and gone, leaving nothing but the faint whiff of mascara and leather pants, when I arrived. The howling banshee on stage was Neil Petersen, formerly lead microphone abuser in the Dead City Rebels, local legends whose music career expired when their sophomore album went down with the Man’s Ruin ship. While other Rebels alumni have surfaced in sundry other Ottawa rock combos, Petersen has kept a low profile since 1999, barring a Dead City Rebels resurrection for a radio station fundraiser in 2003.

Yet there he is on stage, kicking out haggard blues-soul-rock-swamp blurt like Tex Perkins in the Beasts of Bourbon or Rob Younger in his new outfit, Boom Creek. The Scientists are another touch point for the gritty rock quartet – there’s a definite antipodean feel to their sound. They could easily share a stage with any number of Estrus bands.

“If you smell mothballs,” Petersen said between songs, “It’s from the old suit I bought today.” It certainly wasn’t from the well-dressed and definitely sweaty band who sounded as vigorous as any band on the bar circuit.

Following Boom Creek’s stage-scorching set the stakes were high, but the Mongrels were more than capable of bumping things up a notch. Apart from Dickson’s justly acclaimed guitar skills, the band sports two superb drummers and a kimono-wearing, ceiling-scraping bassist.

Where the Mongrels diverge from earlier Dickson acts is in the choice of a vocalist. Dickson has stepped back from the microphone (barring the occasional backing vocal) and handed it over to Joplinesque belter Amy Turok.

The dizzy-eyed brunette cruised the stage in a black-and-white dress, occasionally sauntering in to the audience to regale the excited crowd with her melodic wails.

The sheer locomotive power of the band’s rhythm section pushed the songs along with inexorable force while Dickson unleashed a fusillade of spine-tingling riffs from his powder-blue Stratocaster.

There was little breathing space between songs – there were seven in all,
culminating with the Black Sabbath-inspired ‘Wizard’.

Rock fans in Canada and overseas may mourn the absence of Tricky Woo, but with the Mongrels they have a new powerhouse to ponder.



















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